29 March 2013

Recipes For Maundy Thursday

Forgive me for posting this late, perhaps it can be useful for next year!

On Maundy Thursday I've always liked the idea of serving Mediterranean foods or dishes that remind us of Christ's gifts and passion.

Our Maundy Thursday meal usually contains:

Grapes, Olives, Raisins

Another idea I like is to serve lamb or a roast, but since I serve this on Easter Sunday, I don't get that ambitious on Thursday!

We'd love to hear some of your ideas. What meals do you serve during Holy Week?

I so enjoy Classic99.com's program every Easter!

Good Friday, March 29, 2013

12:00 noon Saint John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach
The complete Passion features the Leipzig Radio Choir and the Dresden State Orchestra, along with some marvelous soloists, including Peter Schreier as the Evangelist, and Robert Holl singing the words of Christ.

2:00 p.m. Seven Last Words of Christ by Franz Josef Haydn
Played in its entirety without interruption by the Juilliard String Quartet, and featuring soloists Benita Valente, Jan DeGaetani, Jon Humphrey and Thomas Paul.

4:00 p.m. Golgotha by Frank Martin
This rarely heard Oratorio, written by the Swiss composer just after World War II, is based on the Passion models of Bach.

7:00 p.m. The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer
This musical "Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer," as the composer referred to it, features the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, England.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

12:00 noon Passion According to Saint Matthew by Johann Sebastian Bach
This monumental account of the Passion story from Matthew's gospel is delivered by the Monteverdi Choir, along with the English Baroque Soloists, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. Singing the words of Jesus is Andreas Schmidt, with Evangelist Anthony Rolfe Johnson headlining an all-star cast.

Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013

8:00 a.m. "JOY!" with Ron Klemm Music for Easter

12:00 noon "This Joyful Eastertide" (click here to see the music listing)
On Easter Sunday afternoon, CLASSIC99.com will present This Joyful Eastertide. Ron Klemm will be your host for this two-hour special broadcast that celebrates Christ's resurrection. Classical favorites by Bach, Handel, Vaughan Williams, and John Rutter will be complimented with choral and instrumental selections to provide a festive afternoon of great music for Easter.

3:00 p.m. Mass in B-Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
This music, which some have called a "landmark of Western civilization," is a tour de force for chorus. Our Easter presentation features a fine recording by the Netherlands Chamber Choir and the Orchestra of the 18th Century, conducted by Frans Br├╝ggen.

7:00 p.m. Messiah by George Frederic Handel
CLASSIC99.com's second presentation of Handel's beloved oratorio. The Easter Sunday recording features the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir, and soloists Kathleen Battle, Florence Quivar, John Aler, and Samuel Ramey; conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

Monday, April 1, 2013

8:00 p.m. Symphony # 2 Resurrection by Gustav Mahler
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus bring us this monumental work, with soprano Kathleen Battle and contralto Maureen Forrester; Leonard Slatkin conducts.

28 March 2013

Our Holy Week

One of the best things about having family traditions is once they are traditions, you don't have to plan too much how you're going to celebrate--you just do what you always do! I dug up my Easter Week post from two years ago, and made a few slight changes.  Why reinvent the wheel?

We're going to abstain from all sugar (and caffeine and alcohol) to get ready for the Easter feast (which hopefully will have plenty of all three). I'm going to clean out my freezer of frozen casseroles, soups, meats so I don't have to focus too much on meals during the early part of the week.

M: school

T:  school/homeschool group

W: Preparations for the weekend, Vespers. Make hot cross buns.

TH: Lentils for dinner; read the Lord's Supper part of the Small Catechism; Maundy Divine Service

F: Hot cross buns for breakfast
Cover all the crosses and icons in the house
Color stations of the cross coloring pages (HT, Aubri)
Sing "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" after reading the Good Friday account
Make an Easter garden (this one is really fancy, this one more simple)
Color Easter eggs with Oma
Simple pasta, marinara + veggies for dinner
Tenebrae Service at church

Quiet evening and bed early.

S: Rest, try to play quietly, family activities, read Easter picture books, have kids make their own Easter baskets
Preparation for Easter: baths, lay out clothes, decorate the house after the kids are asleep, breakfast prep., fill Easter baskets

Easter decoration ideas: An Alleluia banner (perhaps one you "buried" back in February), lots of cut flowers from your garden (not happenin' this year), an Easter scene (check Hobby Lobby), set table with fine china for tomorrow's meal, uncover covered crosses. Balloons, streamers, white "Christmas lights."

Resurrection Sunday: Rejoice! Eat! Receive God's gifts! (And sing all those alleluias we've been saving). After church we'll have dinner at my parents; then we'll have dessert at my in-laws'. There will be lots of candy, Easter egg hunting, cracking, outside games, and singing (we try to sing lots of Easter songs on Easter).

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3

25 March 2013

The Feast of the Annunciation


"And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end."Luke 1:30-32

A little Christmas in March. During this Holy Week comes the day we hear the glorious news that our God becomes Flesh. He became Flesh so that He could know pain and grief, carry our sins, be stricken, smitten and afflicted. 

"Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel." Isaiah 7:14

We'll sing this beautiful hymn, Gabriel's Message, eat Blueberry Muffins (the color blue reminding us of Mary) and rejoice that our Lord put on tiny flesh and hid Himself in Mary's womb...for us.

"O who am I, that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh, and die?"

Some fun for kids:
Some more food ideas for today can be found HERE.

Handel's Messiah Texts

My inlaws took us to see our city's orchestra perform Handel's Messiah last night. Although often performed at Christmas, it was written as a Lenten and Easter meditiation.  I loved hearing the whole piece from beginning to end, Old Testament and New Testament all mixed together.  The program for the concert summraized the piece beautifully:
Divided into a symbolic three sections, Messiah tells no story in explicit dramatic terms, but rather provides a series of meditations on the prophesy and realization of God's plan for the redemption of mankind through the coming of the Messiah; the accomplishment of that redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus; and an extended hymn of thanks for the final overthrow of death. 

This would be a great list of verses to memorize!  Do see it performed live, if you get a chance.

Our local theater
1. Sinfonia (Overture)
2. Tenor Recitative. —
Isaiah 40:1-3 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
3. Tenor Air —
Isaiah 40:4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
4. Chorus —
Isaiah 40:5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
5. Bass Recitative —
Haggai 2:6,7;  Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.
 Malachi 3:1 The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
6. Bass Air —
Malachi 3:2 But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
7. Chorus —
Malachi 3:3  And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
8. Alto Recitative —
Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23  Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
9. Alto Air and Chorus —
Isaiah 40:9  O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Isaiah 60:1  Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
10. Bass Recitative —
Isaiah 60:2,3 For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
11. Bass Air —
Isaiah 9:2  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
12. Chorus —
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
14. Soprano Recitative —
Luke 2:8,9  There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
15. Soprano Recitative —
 Luke 2:10,11  And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
16. Soprano Recitative —
Luke 2:13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
17. Chorus —
Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
18. Soprano Air —
Zechariah 9:9,10 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior. And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
19. Alto Recitative —
Isaiah 35:5,6 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
20. Alto Air —
Isaiah 40:11; He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Matthew 11:28, 29 Come unto Him, all ye that labour, that are heavy laden, and He shall give you rest. Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him; for he is meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
21. Chorus —
Matthew 11:30 His yoke is easy, and His burthen is light.

Part Two

22. Chorus —
John 1:29  Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.
23. Alto Air —
Isaiah 53:3;   He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
Isaiah 50:6  He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
24. Chorus —
Isaiah 53:4,5 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
25. Chorus —
Isaiah 53:5  And with His stripes we are healed.
26. Chorus —
Isaiah 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
27. Tenor Recitative —
Psalm 22:7 All they that see Him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying:
28. Chorus —
Psalm 22:8 He trusted in God that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, if he delight in Him.
29. Soprano Recitative —
Psalm 69:20  Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him but there was no man; neither found He any to comfort Him.
30. Soprano Air —
Lamentations 1:12  Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow!
31. Tenor Recitative —
Isaiah 53:8  He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.
32. Tenor Air —
Psalm 16:10  But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
33. Chorus —
Psalm 24:7-10 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
34. Tenor Recitative —
Hebrews 1:5  For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten hee?
35. Chorus —
Hebrews 1:6  Let all the angels of God worship Him.
36. Bass Air —
Psalm 68:18  Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
37. Chorus —
Psalm 68:11  The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.
38. Duetto for 2 Alto Solos and Chorus —
Isaiah 52:7, 9 How beautiful are the feet of him that bringeth glad tidings of salvation; that saith unto Sion, Thy God reigneth!
Break forth into joy, glad tidings. Thy God reigneth!
39. Chorus —
Romans 10:18Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.
40. Bass Air —
Psalm 2:1,2  Why do the nations so furiously rage together: why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsels together against the Lord and His anointed.
41. Chorus —
Psalm 2:3  Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
42. Tenor Recitative —
Psalm 2:4  He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
43. Tenor Air —
Psalm 2:9  Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
44. Chorus —
Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16  Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, Lord of lords.

Part Three

45. Soprano Air —
Job 19:25, 26; I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.
1 Corinthians 15:20 For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep.
46. Chorus —
1 Corinthians 15:21, 22  Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
47. Bass Recitative —
1 Corinthians 15:51, 52  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
48. Bass Air —
1 Corinthians 15:52, 53  The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
49. Alto Air —
Corinthians 15:54b  Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
50. Duetto for Alto and Tenor —
1 Corinthians 15:55, 56  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
51. Chorus —
1 Corinthians 15:57  But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
52. Alto Air —
Romans 8:31, 33, 34  If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
53. Chorus —
Revelation 5:12, 13 Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power to be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.

24 March 2013

Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25)

A repost from a few years ago.  Isn't it wonderful to celebrate the Annunciation so close to Good Friday and Easter?  "And the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end!"


In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Luke 1:26-33

LSB 356

12th century Sinai Icon

Today's feast will be very art-centric at our house, if you can't tell. The Annunciation is probably the most-painted Biblical subject in the West. The subjects are simple (just an angel, Mary, the Holy Spirit, and usually some architecture and fleur-de-lis, representing Mary's virginity). If your kids are studying a particular artist or art style, I'm sure you can google and find a relevant Annunciation. It's also very easy to compare styles using 15 or so representative Annunciations, since the subject is so simple.

After reading the account, we'll talk about which paintings we like best and why, what parts properly reflect the Biblical account, and which are the artists' imagination.

*In Greek the feast of the Annunciation is called Euangelismos ("spreading the Good News"). Truly the Good News began at the Incarnation, and culminated at Jesus' Death and Resurrection. I'm going to try to tie Jesus' conception and birth to our daily Lenten themes (we have been dwelling on Jesus' sufferings and death).

*March 25th began the New Year from 525-1752, "since the era of grace begins with the incarnation of Christ." When England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, it was moved to January 1.

*Traditionally, John the Baptist's and Jesus's conception dates are also their death dates (borrowing an older Jewish tradition that prophets died or were martyred on their birthdays).

* Today is Name-Day for all Marys, Marias, Maries, etc. The babe in my womb will be a Mary Elizabeth, if it is a girl. (Does anyone know why today is the Name-Day, and not August 15th?)

* In some places in Europe this day is called "The Feast of the Swallows," since around March 25 the swallows return from their winter home. (Austrian saying: "When Gabriel does the message bring / Return the swallows, comes the spring" ).


* Talk about when life begins, and pray to God to protect all unborn babies. Lutheran's for Life has some helpful resources, including this article.

* Talk about what fleur-de-lis (or just lilies in general) represent in art. Originally they symbolized Christ's purity (think Easter), but eventually they came to represent Mary's chastity and virginity, and reference Song of Songs 2:2 "As a lily among brambles /so is my love among the young women." Of course, this verse can be read as Christ speaking of his Church, but it is acceptable to see Mary as a type (symbol) of the Church, or New Jerusalem.

I find it interesting that in many of the paintings above, the angel is holding the lily, or giving it to Mary. Christ's purity covers His mother's guilt, even while he is being conceived.

*Listen to Bach's Cantata BWV 1 "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern" Lyrics here. Recordings here and here.

*Coloring pages: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3

17 March 2013

Easter Books, Unwrapped

Since Easter is the queen of the feasts, we do a little Easter gift-giving in our house, usually a religious book.  Aubri and I thought we'd review the books we will either be reading during Holy Week or gifting on Easter.   It's much harder to find Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter books for children than Christmas books, so we would love your own reviews, too!   What do you give your children on Easter?

Aubri:  Here are the books I've read to my kiddos during Holy Week and Easter.

Since none of my children are reading yet I'm a bit more forgiving with the text. Unless something is just in bell ringing error, I'm ok with skipping some words. I'm also big on adding to the text more explanation than what is given in most childrens' books.

For the most part these books simply spell out the story of the Resurrection and the events that led up to it. You won't find an application of Christ's Resurrection in most of these.

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. We have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." From I Corinthians 15
Now, a GREAT kids book would probably go into some of this, but I have yet to find one of those childrens' books and I'm ok with that. Explaining this is one of my jobs as the reader and the parent.

The Very First Easter Board Book by Paul Maier

This is a board book, so it's a condensed version of Maier's book The Very First Easter. This one is on the level of a very young child. Straight foward historically accurate events; miracles, Palm Sunday, Last Supper, and ends with the disciples touching the risen Christ. Wonderful, realistic illustrations.

Easter Surprise Lift the Flap Board Book by Vickie Howie

My kids really like flap books, I don't. I'm endlessly tapping the little flaps back into the book, but that never stops me from letting them have some. What I liked about this telling of the story; Last Supper scene Jesus tells them the bread and wine are His body and blood, given for the forgiveness of sins and we see Judas sneaking off to betray. Cons on this one; Mary on her way to put spices on Christ's body is surprised by a butterfly coming out of it's cocoon. I think I understand why it's in there, I could have done without it.

What Is Easter? Board Book by Michelle Medlock Adams

The first half of this book is leading the reader to ask themselves "what Easter means". Is it about the fluffy stuff that Easter brings, candy, eggs, new cloths, toys? Then answers with a No, then briefly tells the Easter story. It is sprinkled with a bit of Calvinist theology, today Jesus sits right next to God in Heaven and wants to live inside you too. This is an example of where I would substitute my own text in a book. Thankfully on this page Jesus holds a little lamb, great for talking about our Good Shepherd. Also, included is an "Easter Bunny" reference. We don't do the Easter Bunny at our house but I'm not going to through a fit over that one. I still like this book because in our home, we do enjoy the candy, the gifts, the new cloths. I want my children to know that those are fine and fun but as the book does make pretty clear, "It's all about God's Son."

The Story of Easter Board Book by Patricia A. Pingry

I have several of Pingry's books. They are very simple and have cute illustrations. Nice for my toddler and my preschoolers like them, but there are some things to watch for in these. As for this book, it's very weak on it's theology so a lot of editing is involved when I read it. On the crucifixion she writes; "But some men didn't like Jesus. They put Him on a cross to die." No mention of sin and unfortunately the picture painted here is that everyone "loved" Jesus except for a few men. Not good. This book ends with the line "He gave His life for us so that we can live too." The illustration here is children playing by a pond. My husband really doesn't like that, "Living doesn't mean playing at the lake".

The Easter Victory Arch Book by Erik Rottman

This is probably the best one on my list. I'm usually pretty impressed by the Arch books I've read. This one is not written at the level my kiddos are currently at but we still read through it. It's better for ages 5-10. This book largely focuses on Jesus' work and what it gives us. It isn't light on His suffering. It mentions the disciples abandoning Jesus, Jesus having being tied up, kicked, hit, spat on and dragged down the street! And ends with "Because of Jesus' death and life you have God's Word of peace. Through every Sunday morning's Word through water, wine and bread God's people are assured that they shall rise up from the dead." I like that.

The Time of Easter by Suzzanne Richterkessing

This book is one in a series on the Church year. Two young mice are led through lessons on the church year by an older church mouse. This one begins with an explanation of Lent, explains what sin is, then it moves on to Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter and Ascension.

I was very pleased that this book does touch on what Christ's Resurrection gives us, "Now Gods' people know they will have eternal life." "It means God's people will live in heaven with Him forever."

It's cute and educational. I'm sure children won't be the only ones to learn something in these books.

Katy: My choices are less Easter-orientated but no less relevant to Easter!  I checked out some of these books from our church library, and was surprised how much my kids liked them, so we had to get them for our own library.   

Like Aubri, I fill in and explain where the books lack or are not clear about Christ's victory over sin, death, and the devil, and how his death and resurrection is for you. 

Easter ABCs by Isabel Anders

A simple book all of my kids (ages 1-5) will enjoy.  It has the letters of the alphabet and it rhymes--what else do you need for very small children?  The poem is mediocre (containing clunkers like "he was gone, all right!" and "EXcited is the way we feel.")  The two lines I have theological qualms with is "Searching for Him will not do--For Jesus lives in me and you," and another line that seems to channel the infamous hymn "I Come to the Garden Alone."  As Aubri mentioned above, children's books on the Easter story usually are just narrative.  I'm happy to say Easter ABCs also has theologically winning lines such as "Joy is now our happiest thought--For our salvation He has bought" and "No one can deny that we from the fear of death are free!"  Unfortunately, the binding doesn't seem too strong, so it may only last one Easter in our house.

Little Folded Hands

This is one of the books I stumbled across in our church library, and the kids love it.  My oldest read all the prayers all the way through to her brothers.  Many are sing-songy rhyming poems, sometimes bordering on moralism without mentioning Christ, however there are beautiful little poems like this

The morning bright
With rosy light
Has waked me from my sleep;
Dear God, Thy own
Great love alone
Thy little one doth keep.

All through the day,
I humbly pray,
Be Thou my Guard and Guide
My sins forgive,
And let me live,
Blest Jesus, near Thy side. Amen.

The evening prayers refreshingly speak of death and dying and going to heaven, often seeking forgiveness for sins of that day.  I find this unusual for a children's book of prayers.  If your kids have Luther's Morning and Evening Prayer down pat, this is good place to start expanding their "prayer treasury"--memorized prayers they can turn to when in need. 

My Very First Holy Bible

We are starting a tradition this year to buy a Bible for our children on Easter the year they learn to read chapter books on their own.  Our 5-year-old is rather precocious, and I thought a real Bible would challenge her.  I used to be against categorizing Bibles and hymnals (see the next review), but this Bible has three things I like 1) it has respectful, realistic illustrations 2) the pages are thicker, so tearing is less likely 3) the print is slightly larger for new readers.  I remember the first Bible my parents gave me (I still have it) and I treasured it for years.  The best gift a parent can give their child is the Word of God.

My Very First Hymnal

I remember when Issues, Etc., had this as book of the month, and I thought, "What?  My kids will grow up with the real hymnal, the family hymnal that everyone uses.  We don't need simplified songs!"  This is yet another book I checked out of our church library and the kids loved it.  My daughter (and beginning pianist) could read the simple music notes, and she likes to carry it around to just read the hymns.  Even though we have most of the evening and morning prayer liturgies memorized, Claire also likes to find where we are and read the text for us. 

It helps me choose what easier hymns to sing for each season in the church year.  I am tone-dead (and tune-dead), so the simpler the better when teaching my kids songs. It has a short list of Psalms I intend the kids to memorize.  It introduces a simple liturgy of Confession and Absolution, encouraging family members to confess sins to one another.  The artwork is bold and colorful.  The only problem I have with it is leaving out verses from hymns. But I have a problem with LSB doing that, too.

No need for this to replace family worship with the "real" hymnal, but it's a wonderful supplement. 

My First Catechism

This book has Luther's Small Catechism along with Bible stories to further explain "what does this mean?"  For example, for commandment 1, you shall have no other gods, they give the story of the three young men who refused to bow to an idol and were thrown in the furnace.  Under the explanation ("We should fear, love, and trust God above all things") they tell the story of Abraham trusting God and preparing Isaac as a sacrifice.  I intend to use this book for school devotions during the Easter season.  The book includes the Table of Duties, a short explanation of our creeds and confessions, and a list of the feasts and festivals of the Church Year.  At the very back are three hymns: "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb", "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It," and "Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain."

Things I See at Easter by Julie Steigemeyer

We love this series of books and this year I bought Things I Hear at Church  and Things I See at Baptism for my 19-month-old.  Things I See at Easter is on sale for $2.50 at CPH!  They are boardbooks that very, very simply explain to the very small child what is happening at church.  The only complaint I have is, if you buy the whole series, you start to notice recycled artwork. 

Please browse Concordia Publishing House's Easter book sale for more ideas!